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By ALAN J. ORTBALS

Contegra-Spot-photo-WStarWest Star Aviation, St. Louis Regional Airport   Contegra Construction Co. began work on the expansion of West Star Aviation in early August. Completion is projected for March 2014.
   West Star is located at St. Louis Regional Airport in East Alton. It specializes in airframe repair and maintenance, engine repair and maintenance, major modifications, avionics installation and repair, interior refurbishment, paint, parts, surplus avionics sales, window repair and accessory services. The company also provides complete fixed-base operator services for transient aircraft at its Regional Airport facilities. West Star also has operations in Columbia, S.C.; Aspen, Colo.; and Chesterfield, Mo. The company’s roots date back to 1947. It bought Premier Air’s airport operations in 2004.     
   Rising demand for its services has pushed West Star to add a 47,300-square-foot hangar, a 12,800-square-foot attached, two-story office and a 6,000-square-foot accessory repair shop to its Regional Airport facility. This will bring the East Alton facilities up from 250,000 square feet to 317,300 square feet with approximately 300 employees.
   Contegra project manager Jason Prewitt says delivery of the pre-engineered Butler building is expected in early October with assembly to begin immediately. The hangar will measure 215 feet by 220 feet and will be a clear span with no supporting posts. To accommodate the movement of aircraft, it will have a 210-foot wide by 30-foot-tall door opening. In order to minimize heat loss in the winter, it will be warmed with infrared gas heat.
   Unlike forced air heat, infrared heaters produce heat via light that is invisible to the eyes, says Prewitt. The building’s components will absorb heat from the light and remain warm longer than heated air. He adds that it is like the difference between being directly in the sunlight versus sitting in the shade, where the light does not reach.
   Prewitt expects the hangar to be completed early next year but the office finish will take longer.   
   A Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla) graduate, Prewitt has been performing design-build construction, estimating and project management for Contegra for nine years.